Commercial fishing vessels are moored in the Kenai harbor on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Commercial fishing vessels are moored in the Kenai harbor on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly to take up legislation opposing closure of federal inlet waters to commercial fishing

The assembly will discuss the resolution at their Dec. 1 meeting

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will consider at their Dec. 1 meeting legislation opposing the closure of federal waters in Cook Inlet to commercial fishing.

The resolution is a response to one of four proposed alternative amendments to the Fishery Management Plan for Salmon Fisheries in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska known as “Alternative Four.”

Alternative Four would close federal waters in Cook Inlet to commercial fishing. Federal waters make up the southern half of the inlet, south of Kalgin Island, according to a memo from assembly member Brent Johnson. The water located south of Kalgin Island has traditionally been used by the drift gillnet fleet.

Other peninsula municipalities have recently taken action to oppose Alternative Four, including the Kenai City Council, which voted unanimously to oppose it.

Alternative Four was introduced near the end of the last meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) last month by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Deputy Commissioner.

On Friday, State Sen. Peter Micciche, who represents Kenai and Soldotna, sent out a press release announcing his opposition to Alternative Four.

In a Nov. 25 letter to members of the NPFMC, Micciche, who is also a commercial fisherman, said Alternative Four would have “dramatic negative consequences for the entire commercial fishing industry in Cook Inlet,” as well as for their families and crew members and for area processors.

Implementing Alternative Four, he said, would likely end commercial salmon fishing in the inlet and, by extension, “an Alaskan way of life.”

“I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid taking this path leading toward the ultimate destruction of commercial salmon fishing in Cook Inlet, and eventually negatively impacting the other user groups for decades,” Micciche said.

The NPFMC will take final action on the new Fishery Management Plan during their meeting next month.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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